Saturday, January 20, 2007

24 Hours: The International Scene Never Stops

And Neither Does Life Itself!

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom Group
January 20, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 0901:

I lunge for the telephone. If I don’t get it by the end of the second ring the answering machine clicks on.

“John, this is Hai-lan. Hello.”

Hai-lan, my old political and military science mentor, phoned from Asia to give me a piece of her mind. Well, maybe more than a piece. Maybe a chunk of thinking and criticism and insight.Hai-lan’s phone call and the spin-off thinking I needed to do as a result became the focus of the greater part of this morning.

If you missed our insight from Asia on U.S. foreign policy, you are invited to read more at:

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 1120:

Phone again: “John this is Alex ‘Verbotin’ (this is Alex’s effort at a comic pseudonym) in Moscow. Can we talk later today about the U.S. intentions with regard to Iran?”

Alex is a reporter in Russia.

I tell him I will do some reading and be ready for him at about 4 or 5 PM my time.

He thanks me and promises to call back at about 5 PM.

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 1135:

I depart for Catholic Mass at noon at Our Lady of Lourdes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 1300:

I stop by to see my wife and her Vietnamese friends at work. I wind up buying them Vietnamese takeout for lunch. This is what friends are for.

They all eat noodles with their chopsticks and delighted faces!

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 1400:

Cell phone: “John, this is Tom, I think I had a heart attack.”

I say immediately: “Call 911 and get to the hospital.”

Tom: “I can’t do that. My insurance isn’t paid up. I needed the money to buy the new Lincoln.”

Tom is 75 years old, suffers from Alzheimer’s, still drives and works. He has no family and has never been married. He lives alone. I am, it seems, one of the only people he trusts in a crisis.

Because of the Alzheimer’s, Tom doesn’t make good decisions. Calling me today is one of those.

Buying a Lincoln with the medical insurance money, apparently, is one of those bad decisions he’s hiding from me.

I agree to pick Tom up, and drive him to the hospital, but he argues against my plan. I decide to go anyway. I’ll pick up an expert on Iran on the way.

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 1445:

Tom calls again on the cell phone several times. In each call he radiates enthusiasm and says he is getting better.

I tell him he is not qualified to make a self diagnosis.

My Iranian friend has a “ read file” so I start reading everything I can get my hands on about U.S. military preparations to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. This necessitates several phone calls to top intelligence sources and people in the know.

My Iranian friend makes half of these phone calls without prompting. We have worked together before.

Thursday, January 18, 2007, 1700:

We decide we know enough and depart to pick up Tom and head for the emergency room.

After we pick up Tom, Alex calls from Russia and interviews me by cell phone for a Moscow radio program.

I never tell him we are winding our way though the tunnel underneath the U.S. Capitol building on the way to the veterans hospital. The vision of Princess Diana and Dodi in the tennel below Paris flashes across my mind for a second. I drive more carefully for a few minutes.

Tom is a disabled American Veteran of the Korean War and we know he will be seen in the emergency room of the V.A. hospital without cost.

At the V.A. hospital Tom is evaluated first by a registered nurse from Puerto Rico named Juan, then by a RN from Kenya named Rosemary. I tell Rosemary I visited Kenya while in the Navy and we have a chatty conversation as she shoves probes into Tom and reads print outs.

Rosemary is from the Meru tribe in central Kenya. She tells us that the uniting term Meru covers several smaller tribes and village people and comes from the Maasai, who called the forests of Tigania and Imenti Mieru, meaning basically "a quiet place.”

I file this nugget away. But I have no idea when it might become useful. Maybe a New York Times crossword puzzle some day!

The head nurse is from the Philippines and we have some fun with her as we spent many happy times there while in the Navy.

Finally Tom is seen by a real honest to gosh Doctor, who happens to be a Beauty Queen of a Black woman.

She asks Tom if he had any heart palpitations or chest pains today and Tom smiles ear to ear and says: “Not until you came in!”

When you are a skinny 75 year old man you can get away with anything, I’ve found.

Tom must be feeling better!

We escape the emergency room at about midnight and I drive everyone home.

Friday, January 19, 2007, 0500:

I rise to start reading about China. A Chinese submarine surfaced within 5 miles of USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier, late last year. Tim, a former National Security Council member, has sent me reams of information to sift though. We are supposed to rendezvous for a meeting at the Pentagon at 0930.

When I glance at the morning news I see that The Washington Post is reporting that China has killed an old Chinese satellite with a ground-based rocket.

Why now, I wonder?

We’ll have to go back and reads up on this later.

Somebody told me one time what I am really good at.

“John,” said an old friend. “Better than anyone in our business you can read volumes of information, organize it, fit it together and make complete sense out of a hash that nobody else can decipher. Then you can explain it all to us and show us how it all fits together and makes sense.”

I guess that is what I do.

Friday, January 19, 2007, 0800:

I start driving to the Pentagon early. Good thing too. Wantanee phones from Thailand.

“John: you won’t believe it. I have the video of the interview by CNN of Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin. It doesn’t air until Saturday and the Thai government already has said it won’t air here in Thailand at all.”

I can tell she is breathless.

I ask her, “What should we do with it?”

She knows: “Put it on the internet, of course, and tell all the Thais where they can see it!”

Wantanee and I don’t have a dog in the fight about who should lead Thailand but we do stand up for Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech. If the Thai government wants to keep information from the Thai people: we’re bound to be on the other side of that discussion along with organizations such as “Human Rights Watch.”

We work out the technical details and say goodbye.

At about 0856, I slow the car to a crawl as I pass Arlington national cemetery. A funeral is forming up: the soldiers in their crisp blue dress uniforms.

I am at the Pentagon and a guard I have know for more than 20 years greets me with a smile and “Morning Mister Carey.”

Another 24 hours is about to begin.

I guess my days are not as exciting as that guy's on TV. But my days are full and well spent and I've yet to find the time to see that guy on TV go though his grueling 24 hour day!


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